Sunday, March 19, 2017

Mom, the lifelong reader

Working my way through many old photos of Mom...

I really love this one. She's holding a copy of Peter Rabbit and Other Stories. I believe this is the 1947 hardcover that was illustrated by Phoebe Erickson and published by Wonder Books.

Mom was an avid lifelong reader. One of her childhood favorites, Dangerous Island by Helen Mather-Smith Mindlin, became one of my childhood favorites. She also passed down to me her love of the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books.

Just a tiny sampling of her favorite authors would include James Michener, Nevil Shute, Colleen McCullough and Stephen King. She enjoyed non-fiction narratives and diaries of ordinary women living through trying times.

The last books she read were Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times, by Lucy Lethbridge; The Foxfire Book, edited by Eliot Wigginton; and The President Is Dead!: The Extraordinary Stories of the Presidential Deaths, Final Days, Burials, and Beyond by Louis L. Picone.

The book she had most recently added to her Amazon wish list was When the Children Came Home: Stories of Wartime Evacuees by Julie Summers. I may read that one myself.

And just wait until I tell you about her cookbooks...

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Mary Ingham Otto, 1948-2017

Mom and me (1971)

Hello, readers. My wonderful mom, Mary Ingham Otto, died suddenly on March 2. It's been a difficult couple of weeks, and the services and burial won't take place until we can get the family gathered together in early April, to lay her to rest near her grandparents and her mother.

Mom was Papergreat's #1 reader and #1 fan. She would send concerned emails if I went more than a few days without giving her something new to examine and read.

She wasn't a big fan of the comments system, though. All of her stuff showed up as Anonymous. But I always knew which ones were hers. The last feedback she gave to me regarded the February 20th post "1912 softball team at Miss Capen's School for Girls," which dealt with oft-mentioned Greta Chandler Adams, her grandmother.

"Love this entry," Mom wrote to me in an email. "Did you know that Grandma had auburn hair?"

I had not known that.

That exchange also spurred another discussion of Linden Hall School for Girls in Lititz, Pennsylvania, my mom's alma mater. Founded in 1746, it's the oldest boarding school for girls in the United States.

As remarked upon the success of this winter's basketball team, Mom wrote: "When I played, it was in the old gym. ... There was one foot of space between out of bounds lines and the wall. You didn't want to be headed fast for the sidelines during the game."

Mom's last email, on March 1, was to tell me that she was "enjoying the rainy day." She and I were both very keen Weather Watchers.

Mom was an amazing person, and I am already missing her greatly. I'll be writing and remembering a lot about her this year.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


The Graduate first appeared on movie screens 50 years ago. It was nominated for multiple Oscars, including acting nods for Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross and Dustin Hoffman (but not William Daniels, who went on to win two Emmys for St. Elsewhere1).

One of the most-referenced scenes in The Graduate comes when Hoffman's character, Ben Braddock, is speaking with Mr. McGuire (played by Walter Brooke). It goes like this...
Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
And that brings us to today's pieces of ephemera.

My great-grandmother's travel scrapbook included a small envelope, 4 inches wide. Printed on it, in red ink, is a message "From our Children to their Benefactors" (the image at the top of this post). The full message states:
"Formosa is famous for its beautiful butterflies and we enjoy collecting them.

"Moreover. We found a nice way to send our beautiful butterflies to our benefactors. The plastics industry, one of the fastest growing industries on the island, fixed our butterflies in durable material. We helped them and they help us ...... to send a small token of our gratitude to OUR DEAR BENEFACTORS."
Formosa is Taiwan. Portuguese sailors named the island Ilha Formosa, and that was the most commonly used name from the 16th century through early 20th century. As the 20th century unfolded and Japan, and then China, claimed control of the island, Formosa faded and Taiwan rose in modern usage. The status of Taiwan is, of course, extremely complicated and it should suffice to say that if you are the leader of major Western nation, you should consider carefully any phone conversations you might have with Taiwan's president.

And so that brings us to plastics, which didn't work out too swell for the butterflies involved in this show of gratitude from the children of Formosa. Here's a look at the 3-inch-wide piece of plastic that was inside this envelope — the "token of gratitude."

"Laminated butterfly," by the way, is a phrase that brings more than 5,000 results in a Google search. Poor little guys.

St. Eligius Footnote
1. Papergreat posts about St. Elsewhere:

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Two early 20th century firefighting postcards

Here are two vintage postcards with a firefighting theme.

The top postcard shows a half-dozen firefighters on the street, aiming their hoses toward a building that's on fire. The caption states: "Fighting Fire at close range." It was made in Germany and is part of the "New York Fire Fighters Series." There's a tiny logo on the back of the card, shown at right. This split-back postcard was never used or written on, and calls for a one-cent stamp for mailing to the United States, Canada or Mexico, and a two-cent stamp for all other countries.

The second postcard is labeled "GOING TO THE FIRE" and features a horse-drawn fire engine. Additional information on the front states: "1946 ILL. POST CARD CO., N.Y." That would be the Illustrated Post Card, which was in business from 1904 to 1914. Its logo — a bald eagle with a shield — appears on the back of this undivided postcard. According to
"This major publisher produced a wide variety of tinted halftone postcards in series that were printed by Emil Pinkau in Leipzig, Saxony. Each city or location of their color card sets were assigned the same number prefix. They also published an unnumbered series of chromolithographic fine art cards that were printed in Dresden. ... Their best known cards are from a very large set that captured scenes throughout the City of New York. ... In 1909 they stopped importing cards from Germany and began printing their own."
This card was never used either, though someone has scribbled some illegible words on the back, in pencil.

Related posts

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Green baggage sticker for
Holland-America Line

This is an unused Holland-America Line baggage sticker that my great-grandmother placed in one of her scrapbooks. It's green, oval-shaped and measures 6.5 inches across, at its widest point. It includes spaces for the passenger's name, steamer, sailing date, room number and port of landing. Passengers could choose whether this piece of luggage was to be placed in their stateroom or in the baggage room, where access to it would be limited.

Here's a link to a rectangular version of essentially the same luggage label on

Holland America Line was a Dutch-owned shipping company from 1873 to 1989. It helped to bring many immigrants from the Netherlands to North America over the years, especially during the final two decades of the 19th century. Its transatlantic passenger service ended in the early 1970s, but it got new life in 1989 when the company was purchased by Carnival. Transatlantic cruises returned in 2011.

Holland America's newest passenger ship, the MS Koningsdam, is the fleet's largest ever and made its maiden voyage in April 2016.

Eye-catching dust jacket illustration by Ilonka Karasz

When browsing through some books at a sale in Lancaster last year, it was the dust jacket that caught my eye when I came upon this copy of 1945's The World, the Flesh and Father Smith, by Bruce Marshall.1 It's a well-reviewed and well-regarded novel — described as a slightly comic and poignant tale of a Catholic priest, spanning the first half of the 20th century in a small town in Scotland — but not really my cup of tea, reading-wise.

However, I love the dust jacket illustration, even with its chips and tears and ragged edges. It's the work of Ilonka Karasz (1896-1981), a Hungarian-born artist who immigrated to the United States in 1913 and created an amazing artistic legacy for herself.

Here are some facts about her, from Wikipedia and her obituary in The New York Times:

  • In 1914, Karasz, who was only about 18 at the time, co-founded the European-American artists' collective Society of Modern Art. For a few years in her late teens, she also taught textile design at the Modern Art School.
  • From the 1910s to the 1960s, her designs — inspired equally by folk art and modern art — found their way into textiles, wallpaper, rugs, ceramics, furniture, silverware and toys. She also illustrated children's books, including The Twelve Days of Christmas.
  • Karasz's textile work came for companies including Mallinson, Schumacher, Lesher-Whitman, DuPont-Rayon, Susquehanna Silk Mills, Standard Textile, and Belding Brothers. She was known as a pioneer of modern textile designs requiring the use of the Jacquard loom and became one of the few women to design textiles for airplanes and cars.
  • She began painting covers for The New Yorker in 1924 and continued up to 1973, creating a total of 186 covers. Most featured lively vignettes of daily life viewed from above and drawn using unusual color combinations.

I think the description of her covers for The New Yorker would also apply to her work on The World, the Flesh and Father Smith, though the latter is more subdued. You can check out some of Karasz's amazing (trust me) covers for The New Yorker, plus her other work, at the blog Fishink.2 For more about Karasz, you should also see this terrific 2010 post on a blog titled We Too Were Children, Mr. Barrie.

1. From the back-cover blurb: "Bruce Marshall is a dark, smiling man..."
2. Art prints of The New Yorker covers are available from Condé Nast.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Cool illustrations: The New Human Interest Library (Part 17)

This is the final post from "The Do-It-Yourself Book" portion of 1929's The New Human Interest Library, and we're going out with a bang, creating our own zoo. I believe that the creature on the far left is supposed to be a lion. And we are also presented with an illustration of a chicken facing off with a monkey — a duel that looks like a weird twist on Freddy vs. Jason.

Here are some excerpts from the text:

  • "They did not look much like animals then, but that was before they were touched and brought into shape by the wonderful fairies Needle and Thread."
  • "our fierce lion was a corner of fawn-colored, smooth-faced cloth from a tailor-made suit"
  • "our fat pig and dear little white bunny were odds and ends of eider-down"
  • "The best materials are tightly woven stuffs that are plain on one side and fluffy or shaggy on the other. Thin and loose cloths that easily fray are troublesome."
  • "Stuff always with unbleached wadding. A yard will fill three or four animals of 7 inches or 8 inches long and 4 inches or 5 inches in height."

Here's a closer look at this showdown, which involves either a very large chicken or a very small monkey...

Monday, February 20, 2017

1912 softball team at Miss Capen's School for Girls

I've already written about my great-grandmother, Greta Chandler, and her basketball exploits at West Chester Normal School, circa 1913. Now we have a photograph of Greta with her softball team, about one year earlier.

The only caption is "Capon School 1912." With a little help from Mom and some Google searching, the strong likelihood is that this is the softball team from Miss Capen's School for Girls in Northhampton, Massachusetts. (Capon having been misspelled in the family album.)

Miss Capen's School was a preparatory school, run by Bessie T. Capen, connected with Smith College, and many (but not all) of its students went on to attend that college. It was originally known as The Burnham School, before Capen took over. It was closed in 1920, when Miss Capen died. Here's a little bit more about the school, clipped from 1915's A Handbook of the Best Private Schools of the United States and Canada, Volume 1.

There were at least two buildings associated with Capen's School. Both became parts of the Smith College campus after 1920.

Here's a closer look at the 1912 Capen's School softball team. Greta Chandler is in second row, the third person from the left.